tagLoving WivesHouse of Cards Ch. 04

House of Cards Ch. 04


The next day dragged. In the morning I was exhausted and depressed; it was harder than ever even to fake any normalcy to Marianne. Fortunately, she had an early meeting and left right away, leaving me to breakfast and the newspaper on my own.

At work I was so listless that my best friend Steve came into my office and closed the door. "Is something going on, Tom? For the past couple of weeks I haven't been able to tell if you've got the flu or if something is eating at you. Want to talk about it?"

I sighed. Steve and I had known each other for ten years—he was my closest friend. "Steve, I don't feel ready to tell you all of it. Let's just say that Marianne and I are having some troubles."

"Oh, no, that's terrible! Andrea and I always think of you as the happiest couple we know! I'm so sorry. You know I'll help however I can. Would it help if Andrea gave Marianne a call?"

"No, Steve, but thanks. I have a feeling I'll be needing to tell you the whole story pretty soon, but I'm just not ready yet. Thanks for your concern, I appreciate it a lot."

"OK, Tom," he replied, with obvious worry in his face. "Whatever I can do for you, all you have to do is name it." I thanked him, and when he left I did a bit better at returning to my work and putting my marriage out of my mind for a little while.

I got home on the early side, bringing a pizza, and made some preparations. When Marianne walked in I was sitting at the kitchen table, with the pizza, two place settings, and a couple of beers waiting for us. "Hi sweetie, what a nice surprise!" she beamed at me, coming over for a quick kiss.

I smiled wearily at her and opened the beers, and we ate companionably. I managed to entertain her with a mildly interesting story about a difficult client I've been dealing with, and we finished our dinner in just a few minutes. Time to get on with it, I thought.

"Marianne, I'd like to change the subject to something a bit more serious." She nodded expectantly but didn't reply.

"A couple of weeks ago I expressed my fears that you were having an affair. You persuaded me that I was mistaken, of course, so I naturally stopped worrying about it."

Marianne still sat quietly, but watched me intently.

"Clearly it was silly of me to doubt you," I said. "You are my loving and faithful wife, and you would never lie to me about something so important as marital fidelity."

"That's right, Tom," Marianne replied a bit sharply, obviously nettled by my sarcastic tone. "Do I have to continue defending myself to you? I thought this was settled." She looked just the least bit annoyed—or worried.

"No, no, Marianne, not at all," I said. "You've explained everything to me, and I'm fully convinced. It's just that there's something I can't quite understand. Perhaps you can help me with it?" I stepped to the cassette recorder on the counter and pushed the Play button. We heard Marianne's side of her conversation with Eddie from the previous Friday.

"Hello? ... Hey, babe .... Yeah, I'll BET you have! (with a throaty laugh) .... No, I explained that last Monday ... Yes, Tom hasn't said anything else but I can tell it's still on his mind. I have to let a bit more time pass before I can see you again ... Of course I still want to! But you always knew that my marriage would come first —haven't I been clear about that? ... Yes ... Uh-huh ... Yes, I think next Tuesday will work. But let's not go back to the place we've been going, I want to be extra careful. ... Where? ... You mean that place out on Route 8, near the orchard? ... Yeah, we were there three times before, but not in a while. ... OK, babe, Tuesday at 11 .... (Laughs again), Yes, I'm sure you will be ready! ... Me too ... OK, bye."

As she began hearing herself, Marianne was startled. She said, "Tom! How did you..." and then was silent. At the end of the conversation I stopped the tape and just looked at her. She was pale, but looked amazingly calm and composed.

"Tom, I guess I do owe you an explanation about this, but it's not what you think." (The fuck it's not, I thought to myself. What is she going to tell me now?)

"Eddie is a new client for the firm. He's a well-known actor, and he's about to face charges for having spent the night in a hotel with a groupie who turned out to be only 15. His manager hired us to work with him on a public-relations strategy, but he's incredibly paranoid right now. I've been working with him in total secrecy, meeting in motel rooms, and no one in the firm besides me and the president even know we have him for a client. It all seems ridiculously cloak-and-dagger to me, but it's what they insist on. I told Eddie I was willing to go along with this, but I was afraid somehow you'd learn about my sneaking around and think I was having an affair. I warned Eddie that if that happened, I would have to tell you the whole story. I don't know how you got that tape of my conversation with him, but now you know everything that's going on."

I just stared at my wife. Who WAS this person I thought I knew, who could lie so convincingly on the spur of the moment? I almost had to admire her skill, even as my rage mounted at her refusal even now to tell me the truth.

I pretended to believe her story, letting a look of gradual understanding show on my face. "OK, Marianne," I said slowly. "I guess I can see how that conversation might have meant something quite different from what I assumed."

She looked relieved. "Well it's my fault too, sweetie. I was sworn to secrecy about this project, but I probably should have told you about it right at the beginning anyway, and trusted in your discretion. I'm sorry you got so upset for no reason." She was smiling at me lovingly, and I could see that she actually thought she'd pulled it off.

"Yes...yes, it all makes sense now," I said. "But then maybe you can explain what this is all about." And I pressed Play again, and the kitchen was filled with the sounds of Marianne and Eddie in the motel room. I'd made a "highlights reel", since I had absolutely no desire to hear the whole thing again. A few excerpts did the job.

"Let me go, Eddie," we heard Marianne's voice saying. "I'm so hot for it, let me just get my clothes off and you inside me!"

In the kitchen, Marianne gasped aloud. She looked for a minute as though she would jump up to turn off the cassette player, then she just sat back in her chair, staring at the table, looking deadly pale.

A moment later Marianne's voice continued on the tape: "God, it's so big, and so hard, and so beautiful! I guess you really DID miss me! Let me suck on it first."

Next came Eddie's voice, addressing my wife by her pet name. "Hold on, Anni, I'm going to come! Oh, oh, shit, that's incredible, oh, ohhh!" Then he sighed, and said, "Baby, you have incredible lips. That was unbelievable!"

After that, I stuck with Marianne, first with her orgasm while Eddie was licking her.

"That's it Eddie—oh, right there! right there! Yes, yes, I'm coming!!" And after a moment, "Oh, Eddie, nobody does me like you do! Give me a minute to relax and enjoy that wonderful feeling, then I want your beautiful dick inside me."

For the grand finale, I had chosen Marianne's words as Eddie finished fucking her.

"That's it, baby—come on, fill me up. Oh yes, I can feel you so deep in me! Cum in me, Eddie, now, that's it!"

When I stopped the tape this time, Marianne was perfectly still, and as pale as I had ever seen her. Hearing it again had me in tears, but she was dry-eyed. There was complete silence in the room. I watched Marianne for several minutes before she finally raised her eyes to mine, and slowly spoke.

"Oh, Tom. Oh my God. Tom, I am SO sorry. I never meant for this to happen. I never, never meant to hurt you."

I couldn't resist sarcasm. "Why Marianne, whatever do you mean? Weren't those the sounds of you doing public relations work with your important client?"

"Tom, listen. Please. I know I owe you an explanation. Just, please, let me tell the whole story, and don't interrupt me until I've finished. I can..."

"No," I stopped her. I kept my voice quiet, but it probably sounded like an ice-pick. I was as full of rage as I've ever been in my life.

"No, fuck you, no. After you break my heart, after you cut my balls off and stomp on them, after you look me right in the eye and lie to me, you don't get to ask me to sit quietly and listen to your stories. I asked you for the truth two weeks ago. You think I didn't know that story about the thong panties was bullshit? We didn't make love the night before I left on that trip! And even tonight, you had a chance to be honest with me, and you gave me another fairy tale instead!"

"Please, Tom, there's more to this than..."

But I wouldn't let her finish a sentence. "That's my faithful, loving wife, all right! 'Oh Eddie, nobody does me like you do! Give me your beautiful dick!' And all the while he's calling you 'Anni', and eating your cunt. The two of you are showering together, and making plans for next time!"

"Tom, if you'll only..."

"No, Marianne!" By now I was not being so quiet. "You had your chance to be the faithful wife I thought I was married to. You had the chance to tell me the truth, to 'explain' why you've been fucking someone else for who knows how long. You're out of chances now!"

I got up, grabbed an overnight bag I'd left near the door, and walked out to my car. Behind me I heard Marianne, her voice trembling, saying "Wait! Tom, please! Just give me a chance to talk to you!"

I backed out of the driveway and drove slowly and carefully away from my house, away from my marriage, away from my life.


I went to a Holiday Inn nearby and took a room for three nights. That would get me to the weekend, then I could figure something else out. My adrenaline and rage had drained away, leaving me exhausted, empty and sad. It was still only 8:30pm. I called Steve at home. "Hey Steve, it's Tom. Calling you sooner than expected—I think I really do need to talk to someone tonight."

"Sure, Tom, of course. Shall I come to your place, or do you want to come here?"

"Actually, Steve, I'm at the Holiday Inn on 12th, in Room 417. Any chance you could come up and bring a few beers? I'm afraid it's a long and sad story."

"I'll be there in 20 minutes."

I had a couple more beers with Steve as I told him the whole story, from our anniversary night to the thong panties to my tape of Marianne and Eddie in the motel. When I was finished he just looked at me in sad surprise. "Jesus, Tom! Of all the wives we know, Marianne is just about the last one I could have imagined..." Embarrassed, he didn't finish the sentence. Instead, he continued, "What can Andrea and I do to help? Do you want to stay with us? What are you planning?"

"Thank you, Steve. I don't really know yet—I've got this room til the weekend, then maybe I'll find an apartment. As for plans, I've only got two at the moment: not to see or speak to Marianne, and somehow not to fall apart completely. Maybe you and Andrea could have dinner with me in the hotel restaurant tomorrow, just so I have some company?"

"No, Tom, you're coming to our place tomorrow. I insist."

I thanked Steve, and after he left I put out the light and was quickly asleep. It felt like the end of a very important chapter in my life, but perhaps fortunately I was just too tired to lie awake reflecting on it.


I woke at 7am out of a horrible dream, thrashing and sweating. It had been beautiful at first. Marianne and I were at home in our bed, making slow love to one another. We kissed deeply, then smiled lovingly at one another as I stroked into her from above, in the missionary position. After a while there was another man in the room, off in the corner, watching us. I couldn't see him clearly—he was just a dark shape. Then he approached the bed. I still didn't recognize him.

Then the picture swung at a crazy angle, like a camera panning in a movie. Now the view was down from the ceiling. The man, who must have been Eddie, had taken my place! I was standing in my bedroom, watching Eddie and Marianne fucking on the bed. Somehow I couldn't move, couldn't make them stop. They knew I was standing there, but they didn't care. Marianne glanced once at me without expression, then turned back to her lover. She was groaning and crying out, saying "Eddie! Oh, yes, baby, you're the best! Never stop fucking me! make me forget all about my husband!" It went on and on, until she came with a scream I'd never heard her make in all our married years. That's when I woke up.

I thought a quick shower might help, but it took longer than expected, because I broke down and found myself leaning against the wall, sobbing. Eventually I calmed down, and dried myself. "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," I thought grimly to myself as I dressed. "Some life I've got now."

After a quick hotel breakfast I went into work, and asked the company's receptionist, Alice, to come into my office for a moment. She was a quiet but cheerful woman in her fifties, and we had always had a cordial relationship.

"Alice, I'd like to ask a favor, if you don't mind. Marianne and I are having some problems, and I really don't want to see her or talk to her right now. If and when she calls, would you please keep a record of it for me but tell her I'm out of the office, or in a meeting? She can leave a message in my voicemail but I do NOT want to speak to her. Likewise, if she comes to the office, please make sure she's told that I'm not available."

Alice looked at me and nodded, a bit sadly. "Tom, I'm so sorry. Of course I'll take care of that. At the end of each day you can check with me to see whether she's called. Please let me know if I can help in any other way." I thanked her, and she turned to leave, but stopped at the door.

"Tom? I'm so sorry for what you're going through—but I can't help but hope that you and Marianne can work through this. I don't think I know another man who has been as happily married as you have been until now."

To my surprise I found that I could work. Somehow having confronted Marianne with the proof of her cheating had moved me to the next stage in dealing with this. It didn't weigh me down quite so much. I had absolutely no idea what would happen, but for some reason I was able to focus on the practical problems of my job.

At the end of the day I stopped by Alice's desk. She smiled and told me that Marianne had called four times. I returned to my office to check my voicemail, and found two messages from her.

"Tom, honey, it's Marianne." I could hear the tears in her voice. "Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry, so very sorry! I would give anything for this not to have happened!" Terrific, I thought angrily—all you had to do was not fuck that asshole!

"Please call me and give me a chance to talk to you. I know you're hurting, I can't even imagine how angry you are with me. Please give me the chance to help you understand, and to make it up to you!"

The second message was shorter. "Sweetheart, it's me again. Please call. I'm just dying, thinking of how upset you must be."

I deleted the messages, and drove to Steve and Andrea's for dinner. They were waiting with lasagna, a salad, some wine, and a lot of warm sympathy and friendship. Steve had filled his wife in on at least the basics of my story, and she was nearly in tears when she told me how sorry she was.

"Tom, I want you to know that the whole thing is a mystery to me. I've known Marianne for years, and she just adores you! I know you must be unbelievably upset, but please don't forget what a great marriage you have had until now."

"Thank you, Andrea," I said with a sigh. "I know in my brain that what you say is true. But I feel like something's been torn out of me—I'm empty, and kind of dead inside right now. Steve probably told you how she lied twice to my face when I asked her about this, and only admitted it when I played her the tape of her and her boyfriend actually fucking. She somehow found a way to raise the level of her betrayal even higher."

Andrea nodded, and said nothing for a minute. Then she asked, "Tom, how would you feel about my talking to Marianne? I wouldn't be speaking for you, of course—just reaching out to her at a tough time. She's our friend too."

"Yes, of course," I replied. "I'm sure she'll be glad to have a friend to talk to. Maybe she'll want to give you the true version of the whole nasty story—she certainly didn't want to tell it to me."

Over the next week or so, not much changed. I went to work—where I ignored all of Marianne's phone messages—went back to the hotel and went to bed. On the weekend I found a small furnished apartment near the office that would do for a couple of months, until I was ready to make more long-term plans. I went back to the house twice during the day—driving by first to make sure Marianne's car was not there—and picked up some clothes, my toiletries and my computer.

One night after midnight I decided to retrieve the recorder from Marianne's car, just to see whether she was still in touch with Eddie. There seemed no point in leaving the recorder in place, so I just removed it from the trunk and drove back to the hotel. The device had recorded 8-10 calls over several days, all of them about Marianne's work except for one, recorded mid-morning on the day after I walked out.

"Eddie? Hi, it's Marianne ... Yes, I know I don't usually call you, but I needed to this time. ... Listen, let me just speak, baby, OK? Tom has found about us, and I can't see you any more. ... Yes, somehow he recorded me talking in the car, and even us at the motel on Tuesday. ... Yes, it was pretty X-rated. He's walked out on me, and wouldn't even talk to me on the phone at work this morning. ... Yes ... Listen, Eddie, stop and listen to me! You've known since the beginning what the ground rules were for me. My marriage to Tom comes first. I tried everything I could to keep him from finding out, but I blew it. Now I have no idea what will happen, but all I care about is making this up to my husband. ... Yes, Eddie, of course it was great for me too. ... I'll never forget it either. ... Eddie, stop. Don't make our last conversation an argument. We knew it would come to an end. No hard feelings, OK? ... Yes. ... Uh-huh, me too. And I wish you the best. ... Yes, thanks. I'm going to try. ... OK, take care. Bye."

I was calmer now than when I'd heard her earlier conversations with him, and more able to think things through. On the one hand, it was clear that Marianne still wanted to stay married to me. She wasn't leaving me for Eddie. In fact, in all her conversations with him she had reminded him that her first priority was the marriage, and her extreme care in hiding her adultery from me seemed to prove that.

On the other hand, her obvious closeness and affection for Eddie tore me apart. A wild one-night stand, or even a two-week affair, would have been far easier to take than having to think about them fucking over and over for months—for who knew how long?

I realized that I still had no idea what I was going to do. I didn't know what I wanted—besides to wake up and find that Marianne's cheating was just one long nightmare. It had been two weeks since I found her thong with Eddie's cum in it, and five days since I'd confronted her with proof of her affair. I hadn't talked to her since then, though she'd called the office more than twenty times.

I guessed I'd just have to take it a day at a time. When I was ready to move forward, in any direction, I would know. Until then, I'd try just to keep busy and do a good job at work. Anything was better than spending hours staring at the walls, thinking of Marianne.

The following Tuesday I was working on some spreadsheets in my office when Marianne burst in, followed by Alice. Alice said, "Sorry, Tom, I told her you were unavailable but she just ran past me!" I said, "It's OK, Alice—I'll handle it. Thank you."

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